Family Lawyer Arlington VA
Filing for Divorce
Divorce or legal separation proceedings can be a complicated and difficult time, especially if one of the spouses is unhappy about the divorce. A short marriage that did not involve property or children can result in a fairly simple process, especially if both parties are willing to be civil and reasonable.
Things to Consider
Long-term marriages where many things were done or purchased jointly can create a more complicated situation. There are a variety of factors that will influence how your proceedings will continue, such as:
- Minor children: If minors are involved, you will have to fill out additional paperwork and make decisions about child support and custody arrangements.
- Filing jointly: If you both mutually agree on the divorce, you can file jointly but both parties must sign this paperwork and an Order to Appear is not necessary.
- Filing separately: It only requires one spouse to sign papers to start a divorce and that spouse must personally serve the papers to the other spouse, then an Order to Appear should also be filled out and served. In this case, you will also need to prove that one spouse meets your state’s residency requirements for divorce, and that there is a legal reason or grounds for divorce. You will also need to include any other information your state requires.
- No-fault vs fault: If there is no legal “fault” reason for the divorce, such as adultery or abuse, some states allow filing for a no-fault divorce which is a simplified process.
If you and your spouse agree on all matters, your divorce process can be simple and cost far less in legal fees. If there are many disagreements and you need some decisions made while the divorce is taking place (which can take six months in some cases) you might need a temporary hearing which allows the court to help settle:
- Living arrangements
- Use of vehicles and bank accounts
- Debt payments
- Disagreements on child custody, residency, and support
As the spouse filing the paperwork, you are required to deliver a copy to your spouse and file a proof of service form to the court. Without this, you cannot continue with the proceedings. If you expect your spouse to be difficult and avoid signing the papers, you can hire a professional to handle this for you.
As the spouse who receives papers, you are required to file an answer or reply within a certain period of time. You may dispute the grounds for divorce if there are any, and bring up any disagreements regarding the issues within the temporary hearing.
Keep in mind, laws vary slightly between states, so consult with an experienced divorce attorney who is familiar with your state’s laws and who also has experience working with issues you will be dealing with in your particular situation, such as children, unique investments, or unusual financial affairs.
Family relationships can be complicated. When you or a loved one reaches a breaking point in your relationship or marriage, whether or not children are involved, you need a trusted family lawyer in Arlington, Virginia to explain your legal rights and obligations – but also to be understanding of the pain and process of ending a relationship and facing a new family dynamic.
Separation and Divorce
Our clients face separation and divorce for many different reasons, and in many different circumstances, so seek counsel from an experienced family lawyer Arlington, VA residents recommend before relying on what friends or family members tell you, or what you have seen on television!
For example, did you know that Virginia law may require a separation of one year before divorce will be granted, depending on the circumstances? This is because Virginia Law seeks to support marriage and family, and tries to help families remain together.
Finances in separation and divorce are tricky, too – you need a skilled family lawyer Arlington, VA local residents trust to walk you through what spousal and child support you may be entitled to, or what you may owe.
Your situation is unique: there may have been adultery, cruelty, or desertion – grounds for divorce will guide you differently from uncontested divorce. All these factors may impact how your separation and/or divorce unfolds, and only a family lawyer in Arlington, VA can explain what may happen in your situation.
Custody and Visitation
Family law becomes even more challenging when children are involved – so a family lawyer in Arlington VA is critical in considering your family law matter from all angles. When parents are married, they have joint custody of their shared children, and no one questions that either parent may take care of or make decisions for that child.
However, when a couple is unmarried, separated, or divorced, who cares for the kids can become the central issue. A court order related to minors in custody disputes will dictate where the children need to be, and Virginia Law puts the best interests of the child at the forefront.
There are two basic types of custody in Virginia. Legal custody describes which parent(s) or family member makes decisions for the child, and physical custody refers to who has the kids (where they live). Either type of custody may be split equally or unequally in some kind of joint or sole custody arrangement. If you are given a schedule of weekday or weekend time with the child, then you have visitation.
3 Tips for a Smooth Custody Exchange
Now that you and your partner have chosen to separate or divorce, you have to work together to get on the same page regarding co-parenting. Most importantly, your children need to be able to transition from one household to the other in a smooth, nonconfrontational mannor that does not cause problems for you or your children. Your family lawyer in Arlington, VA can help you draft a co-parenting plan that includes a detailed strategy for easy custody exchanges. Talk to your attorney at May Law to get an understanding of what is expected from you as a parent during a custody exchange. In the meantime, these tips can guide you toward having the kind of custody exchange that everyone can feel good about.
1. Stay Calm and Cordial
One of the most important tips your family lawyer in Arlington, VA will share with you regarding co-parenting is to stay calm and remain courteous. This practice definitely applies to custody exchanges. No matter what transpired between you and your ex partner, do your best not to let that dictate how you will interact when transitioning your children from one home to the other.
If you have trouble keeping your emotions in check around your ex, prepare mentally on your way to pick up or drop off your child. Take some time to calm down and breathe before meeting your ex. Talk to your attorney at May Law about any strategies they might be able to share with you. You can only control your own conduct, so strive to stay calm and inviting even if your ex has trouble maintaining that demeanor.
2. Meet Somewhere neutral
In most cases, parents find it inconvenient to pick up or drop off their child with their other parent. This is especially problematic and time consuming if the other parent lives in another state. As your family lawyer in Arlington VA will tell you, there are ways to make the hand-off easier for yourself as well as your ex spouse. You can opt for the custody exchange to take place at a neutral location. For instance, you can meet in the middle at a mutually convenient restaurant. This way, your child can perhaps enjoy some food each time, which will help them anticipate future custody exchanges.
3. Don’t be Late
Even if your ex is no longer a part of your life, their time is still valuable. Your time is valuable as well. Therefore, your family lawyer in Arlington, VA will likely emphasize that you shouldn’t be late for a custody exchange. In fact, do your best to be early at the agreed-upon location. This way, your former partner will have no reason to complain about you in court. Also, your attorney at May Law can use your timeliness as leverage to advocate for any future changes you might need or want in your custody agreement.
Questions to Ask a Prospective Family Lawyer or Divorce Attorney
Regardless of which spouse made the decision, if your marriage is ending, you are likely considering retaining the services of a skilled divorce attorney to help you navigate through this complicated and emotional process.
There are some things you should keep in mind when beginning your search for a family. One of the most important is the type of lawyer you hire. There are many areas of law that attorneys can practice in, but each area has its own critical components that – if not adhered to – can result in a less than favorable outcome.
To put this in perspective, compare this to finding a physician. When you have a particular health issue, you seek out a doctor who specializes in that area. If you were having issues with you heart, you would go see a cardiologist because that is their area of specialty. You would not go see a dermatologist because, although they are a medical doctor, their expertise is about the skin.
The same is true with lawyers. If you are going through a divorce, you want a lawyer who is well-versed in the dissolution of marriage laws in your state. A lawyer whose entire practice focuses on personal injury may be a skillful lawyer, but they probably are not as knowledgeable about family law as they are about injury law.
The best way to find a divorce lawyer is to ask friends and family for referrals and go online to check out different client reviews. Once you have your prospects in mind, prepare a game plan that includes a series of interview questions to ensure you are hiring the best family or divorce lawyer to handle your case.
The following are examples of sample questions that may prove helpful when interviewing your prospective choices in Arlington VA. It is also advantageous to take notes at each interview to review later before making your final decision.
Experience and Knowledge
- What percentage of your cases involve family law or divorce?
- How many years have you been practicing these areas of law?
- Do you have litigation experience?
- What percentage of your cases have gone to trial?
- Do you have any special training that distinguishes you from other family lawyers or divorce lawyers?
Communication and Caseload
- With regard to current caseload, will you have time to handle my case exclusively?
- If not, who else will be involved in my case — associates or paralegals?
- Will I be able to contact you directly?
- If yes, what is the preferred method of communication?
- Will I be billed for telephone or email conversations?
Fees and Firm Expenses
- Do you require a retainer, and if so, can it be waived or satisfied in payments?
- What is your hourly rate?
- Does your rate change if we proceed to trial?
- Will I be responsible for fees and expenses of other members of your legal team?
- Based on my situation and in your estimation, how much will my divorce cost?
FAQs About Child Custody
What Will the Court Take Into Consideration for Custody Arrangements?
There are several factors that courts consider when it comes to child custody. These include:
- The relationship between the child and each parent
- The parents’ health
- The parents’ ability to care for the child
- Which parent provides the most stable environment for the child
- The developmental needs of the child
- The emotional needs of the child
- If there are signs of abuse
Does an Unwed Mother Have to File for Custody?
An unmarried mother is presumed to have full custody unless the father has taken steps to prove his paternity of the child. Once paternity is proven, he may file for custody. A family lawyer in Arlington VA, from May Law can help with the paternity process.
Can You Refuse To Allow Visitation if Your Ex Doesn’t Pay Child Support?
In short, no, you can’t. Child support and visitation are not mutually exclusive — they’re completely separate from each other. Even though your ex isn’t paying child support, he or she still retains visitation rights.
Can Your Child Decide Which Parent To Live With?
If your child is old enough and mature enough to have a reasonable reason to live with one parent or the other, the court may take that desire into account. Generally speaking, children aged 14 and older have more impact on their living arrangements than younger children do, but children aged 8-13 will also be heard. Your May Law family lawyer in Arlington VA, can offer more guidance on this point.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is the guiding document that defines how you and your ex are going to parent your children moving forward. It will include such things as making decisions regarding school, medical care and religious upbringing; visitation; joint or physical custody; and child support. Your family lawyer in Arlington VA, may have a checklist for you of things to include in your parenting plan
What Is a Paternity Action?
A paternity action is the process by which a man can establish he’s the parent of a child. The easiest way to establish paternity is to fill out a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) when the child is born. If there’s any question as to who the father is, you may instead have to take a paternity test, testing your DNA against the child’s. This is often done by court order.
Contact May Law, LLP, Family Lawyer Arlington, VA to Answer Your Family Law Questions
At May Law, LLP, we’ve helped family law clients in Arlington VA and throughout Virginia for over 20 years with challenges faced in separation, divorce, child custody, visitation, domestic abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, protective orders for assault and battery on a family member, spousal and child support, premarital (prenuptial), marital and property settlement agreements, and all manner of issues that come before a family lawyer Arlington, VA residents trust.
Legal and Informal Separation – The Basics
When your marriage is no longer serves as a healthy force in your life, it can be undeniably challenging to determine whether or not your relationship (as it currently stands) remains worth your valuable time, effort, energy and investment. It is partially because determining the fate of a marriage is no easy feat that so many couples choose to pursue either information or formal, legal separations at one time or another. If you find yourself contemplating separation or you are already separated, it is important to consider speaking with an experienced Arlington, VA family lawyer about your legal and financial options and interests. Failing to obtain legal guidance now may impact your legal options and financial security down the road.
Considerations for Separated Couples
One of the reasons why it is so important to speak with an Arlington, VA family lawyer if you are thinking about separating or are already separated is that any informal arrangements you make can impact your financial and legal options for years to come. Until you are either formally divorced or have a binding legal separation agreement in hand, you remain legally and financially bound to your spouse in the eyes of the law.
Practically speaking, this means that you may be held accountable for your spouse’s financial and legal decisions while you remain informally separated. While this may not seem like a significant burden, your Arlington, Virginia family lawyer will be able to explain why this reality is so consequential. If your spouse assumes debts, enters into certain contracts, sells assets without your permission and otherwise behaves badly while you are informally separated, you can be held legally and financially responsible for that behavior. Exploring the protections afforded by legal separation may benefit you significantly if/until you either decide to divorce or become reinvested in your marriage sans separation.
Similarly, it is important to explore the potential benefits of legal separation with your Arlington, VA family lawyer if you have minor children. Legal separation will allow you and your spouse access to child custody agreement structures, formalized child support orders and other legal tools designed to help your family function as well as it can while you mull over the fate of your romantic relationship.
Legal Guidance Is Available
If you are informally or formally separated from your spouse and you have questions about the financial side of legal separation and/or divorce, please do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with May Law, LLP today. Speaking with an experienced Arlington, Virginia family lawyer will not obligate you to take any specific course of action. Doing so will simply help to ensure that your options moving forward are informed ones. It is important to remember that just as no two couples are exactly alike, the ways in which couples separate are never exactly the same either. Our firm will help you to determine what legal options will best serve your family’s interests during this transition, whether this transition is temporary or permanent in nature. We look forward to working with you.
Alimony During and After Divorce
A family lawyer in Arlington VA understands that there are many issues a client may have to deal with during this time. Issues such as custody, child support, and property division are some issues that the parties usually have to come to some sort of agreement. Another issue that may need to be addressed is spousal support.
Spousal support, also known as maintenance or alimony, is monetary assistance awarded by the court to one spouse in a divorce proceeding. In some cases, such support can be very important in ensuring one spouse does not suffer unduly during and after the divorce proceedings.
An Arlington VA family lawyer from May Law LLP can help determine if you qualify for alimony from your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. Our firm has been assisting clients for 25 years in negotiating and litigating divorces and can help you during this difficult time.
Types of Alimony
There are two types of alimony: pendente lite alimony, which is temporary, and permanent post-decree alimony.
Temporary maintenance awards end when a final order for maintenance is entered in the case. Permanent maintenance can be for a set period of time (durational maintenance) or for the life of the supported spouse (non-durational maintenance). Non-durational maintenance ends when the spouse dies, gets remarried, or cohabitates with another person.
Pendente lite, meaning “pending the litigation,” refers to alimony and other requests made when the divorce or separation case is initially filed. When making a pendente lite motion, an individual may also be able to petition the court for immediate custody or visitation.
While courts generally make the final decisions on alimony, the parties can make an agreement regarding maintenance issues at any time during the marriage or before the marriage through a prenuptial agreement.
Note that maintenance awards can be modified after they have been granted, though the court has to first consider any changed circumstances.
What Should Virginians Include in a Prenuptial Agreement?
Drafting a prenuptial agreement, or prenup is a good way to clarify each person’s responsibilities and rights. They can prevent difficult legal scenarios later in the marriage by setting clear boundaries and expectations.
If you are planning on preparing and signing a prenup, a family lawyer in Arlington, VA can guide you through the process and draft a contract for you and your future spouse. For those who have just started considering the idea, here are a few suggestions for what should be included.
1. Marital Versus Separate Property
This is a crucial part of any prenuptial agreement. Marital property will need to be divided in the event of a divorce. Any assets or belongings that you do not want to split or share should be designated as separate property. Adding this information to your contract will go a long way to avoid future legal fights over things like shares in a business, valuable antiques, or property that’s been in your family for generations.
As a married couple, one person’s debt often becomes both people’s debt. If you already have accrued significant debt, like from graduate school, or if you know you will soon, you should account for this in the prenup. While this can be difficult to predict, there are times when you are aware of future events that will cause indebtedness, like the purchase of a house or other real estate property. For assistance through this process, May Law has the experience to help you determine what to include.
3. Alimony Payments
Virginia law allows alimony payments to be laid out in a prenup, however, the terms must be fair and equitable. While a section like this may be variable and end up not being upheld in divorce court, it is still a good idea to include it. Being prepared with an agreed-upon arrangement, should the marriage end, is usually the best course of action. A family lawyer in Arlington, VA will be able to help you determine an equitable amount of alimony.
4. Separation Specifics
Detailing how various aspects of a separation should be handled is easier when emotions are not running high. For that reason, this is a good thing to include in a prenup. Consider things like who will continue to live in the shared home, who will keep family pets, how furniture and belongings will be divided, and who will retain ownership of vehicles. You don’t have to know what your circumstances will be in the future in order to include these details. Just do your best to be as specific as possible.
Implementing a prenuptial agreement is often a sensitive subject because many people see it as an expectation that the marriage will not last. However, because life is unpredictable and ever-changing, being prepared for the unexpected is never a bad idea. If you are looking for help with your prenup planning, or need a lawyer to draft the contract, reach out to May Law and speak with a family lawyer in Arlington, VA.
What Does the Court Consider in Determining Whether to Award Alimony?
The amount of temporary maintenance awarded is calculated according to a formula provided by statute. When the spouse being ordered to pay maintenance has income exceeding the statutory cap, the court then applies the formula and considers certain factors to determine if the award should be increased.
These factors include:
- The duration of the marriage;
- The differences in the incomes of the spouses, especially if substantial;
- The standard of living the parties were accustomed to during the marriage;
- The health and age of the spouses;
- The chance of one of the parties dissipating or misusing the marital property;
- The ability of the spouse seeking maintenance to become self-supporting, and the training and time that will take;
- Whether the party seeking maintenance will have a reduced or lost earning capacity as a result of having sacrificed or delayed training, employment, career opportunities or education during the marriage;
- Which spouse with whom the children live or will live; and
- Whether one spouse will have trouble finding work due to age or absence from the workforce.
In addition to the above-listed factors, the court may also consider other factors that the court finds proper and just.
Contacting a Family Lawyer in Arlington, VA
If you are going through a divorce and are concerned about spousal support, contact a family lawyer Arlington, VA clients turn to from May Law LLP to discuss your family situation and what legal options you may have. Call our office today to set up a free consultation with a skilled family lawyer.